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Biodiversity Wednesday: The Sea of Cortes

The Sea of Cortes (commonly referred to as the Gulf of California) lies between the Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico. Glorified in Steinbeck’s narrative The Log from the Sea of Cortes, detailing his adventures with Ed Ricketts during a six-week collecting trip, the region is rich in both history and biodiversity. The sea is formed by the separation of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. The East Pacific Rise runs through the Sea of Cortes and continues north to become the San Andreas Fault. The Colorado River empties into the sea at the Colorado River Delta.

The Sea of Cortes is one of the most biodiversity rich water bodies in the world. It is home to many species of sea turtles and cetaceans, including the rare Vaquita.

Conservation in the Sea of Cortes is challenging. Despite several areas being declared world heritage sites, a long history of exploitation coupled with a recent trend towards tourism is hampering regulations. The future of the Sea of Cortes is uncertain.

The Nicholas School of the Environment has been sending students to Baja to learn about the region and study the governance of socio-ecologic systems. You can read their blog here.


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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